How to make a gardening container

Sunpatiens are my favorite annuals for containers. They bloom all season long and do not need to be deadheaded. These coral Sunpatiens look great with lime-green sweet potato vines.

Sunpatiens are my favorite annuals for containers. They bloom all season long and do not need to be deadheaded. These coral Sunpatiens look great with lime-green sweet potato vines.

Choosing Containers

  • Containers come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, colors and styles.  Pots have their own character and are important elements in good garden design.
  • Container materials include stone, metal, terracotta, concrete, wood, ceramic, plastic and fiberglass. Each of these materials has advantages and disadvantages.
  • Terracotta: (amade from clay) has a warm orange tone. The pots are generally very inexpensive. Unglazed pots are porous and lose moisture quickly in our hot summers so plants need to be watered more often. Terracotta pots are not well insulated and must be over-wintered inside or they will break.
  • Glazed Ceramic:  Bright, colorful and beautiful where you need a punch of color.
  • Stone and Concrete Containers:  look wonderful in formal settings. These materials are fairly expensive but a few well-chosen pieces make outstanding focal points. As these surfaces, weather, they take on an old-world charm. Because they are heavy, these containers should be placed where you do not intend to move them!
  • Plastic and Fiberglass Pots:  are modern, man-made materials that are light-weight, durable, reasonably priced and easy to move. Some of these materials are made as reproductions and look like pottery, metal or other textured surfaces.
  • Think Outside the Pot:  Anything that can hold water can be a container. Vintage or “found” items make interesting and meaningful containers. Unusual containers can add whimsy and visual interest to your gardening space.
Bonnie Helander and Jennifer Bigham presented a spring container garden demonstration at Fayette Woman LIVE. It was a popular corner! Here is Bonnie's guide for great containers.

Bonnie Helander and Jennifer Bigham presented a spring container garden demonstration at Fayette Woman LIVE. It was a popular corner! Here is Bonnie’s guide for great containers.

Designing With Containers 

  • Relax and enjoy the process. Create something that pleases you!
  • Consider choosing containers that blend in with the style of your house and garden – formal or informal, contemporary or traditional. Select container colors that complement the colors on your home or the plants in your garden.
  • Containers can be placed anywhere you need a focal point, color or balance. You can give importance to a garden entrance or your front door by placing a container on each side of the entrance gate or door.
  • Pots also work well to fill in a gap in a flower bed.
  • A general rule of thumb is – the larger the container, the greater the impact in the space. One large well-placed container, with or without plants, can add the “wow” factor you are looking to create.
  • Group your containers in odd numbers and use odd numbers of plants of varying sizes in each container. Each pot needs a “thriller” (draws the eye), “filler” (fills in container medium level), and a “spiller” (a ground cover or vine that spills over the sides of the container).
  • When choosing plants, don’t just go for pretty blooms but consider showy foliage. Choose leaves with interesting texture, shapes, colors and variegation. Flowers will fade with time but the foliage will last and provide continued beauty.
To plant up a container, place a coffee filter over the drainage hole, add a soil-less potting mix, and sprinkle in some slow-release fertilizer before adding your plants.

To plant up a container, place a coffee filter over the drainage hole, add a soil-less potting mix, and sprinkle in some slow-release fertilizer before adding your plants.

Planting Containers

What you need:

  • Container
  • Pot feet or drainage tray (optional)
  • Filler if pot is large (i.e. packing peanuts or pine cones wrapped in plastic bag)
  • Container Mix (soilless mix)
  • Drill to make drainage holes if needed
  • Screen or coffee filter to cover drainage holes
  • Slow-release fertilizer and water soluble fast-release fertilizer
  • Moss or mulch
  • Garden art to add to design (optional)

Maintaining Containers

  • If you have a favorite type of plant - like succulents - why not collect them and stage them together for impact! It doesn't have to always be about the blooms.

    If you have a favorite type of plant – like succulents – why not collect them and stage them together for impact! It doesn’t have to always be about the blooms.

    Before planting, determine where your containers will go.

  • Notice the amount of sun or shade. The light exposure will determine what plants you select for your containers.
  • Use a good container mix or “soilless mix” in your pots. Look for mixes that contain slow release fertilizer and water-retaining crystals for easier maintenance. Do not use heavy garden soil.
  • Make sure you have at least one or two drainage holes in each pot. To keep the mix from seeping out of the bottom, cover the drainage holes with a piece of screen or a coffee filter.
  • Fill about half the container with your mix and dampen with water. If you have a large and tall planter, you can place packing materials (Styrofoam peanuts) or pine cones into the bottom so you don’t have to use so much of the soil mixture.
  • After loosening up the roots, arrange your plants by the method mentioned above – using a vertical plant in the back, some colorful filler plants in the middle and some trailing plants to drape over the sides. Your tail filler plant can be left in its original pot if you are planning to remove and update the planter later in the season.
  •  If you are using annuals (plants that last for just one season) pack them close together for a finished look.
  • Succulents provide a contemporary look with interesting shapes, textures, and colors.

    Succulents provide a contemporary look with interesting shapes, textures, and colors.

    If your mix does not come with fertilizer, sprinkle a slow release fertilizer into the mix as you plant. Gently pack more mix around your plants to avoid air pockets and leave at least an inch of space at the top of the container so the mix does not leak out when you water.

  • Water well and do not let the containers ever completely dry out in the hot sun.
  • For continual blooms, use a water soluble fertilizer every ten days to two weeks and deadhead (remove) dying blooms to encourage new growth.

Plants for Containers

  • Almost any plant makes a great container plant.
  • Evergreen shrubs like boxwood give a formal look to the container.
  • Tropical plants provide lots of color and interesting foliage.
  • Ornamental grasses are fabulous vertical additions to containers.
  • Succulents (cactus-like plants) are easy and unusual in our southern gardens. Small, slow-growing trees provide great impact.
  • Look through gardening magazines for ideas. You are only limited in your selection by your imagination!

Bonnie Helander

I am a writer and blogger with a specialty in gardening and a proud graduate of the University Of Georgia. I live in Peachtree City with husband, Dan, and enjoy hiking, gardening, being a member of the Peachtree City Garden Club and rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs!

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